What Makes it a "Standard"?

Occasionally I’ll run across the phrase “musical standard(s)”. Usually this refers to songs like those of the Gershwin or Sinatra era and performed/learned by many, but what does “standard” really mean?

More importantly, how does a song become a standard?

Any examples of tunes today that are good candidates for standards of tomorrow?

You pretty much have it – a “standard” is a song lots of people record and perform. It also helps if the song lends itself to differing interpretation.

The name came up dealing with songs of the 30s (the heyday of the American popular song). Lots of songs of that era were covered and redone time and time again.

It’s harder today. Remember, prior to Rock 'n Roll, all songs were covered by many artists. Nowadays, it’s rare for a song to be redone by anyone other than the original artist. So that sort of widespread covering is less likely to occur; thus, few standards.

We don’t have standards any more (by and large) because of the ready availability of the recorded original version. People today don’t want to hear Joe Blow sing a song, they want to hear the version they know backward and forward. It’s very hard for anyone trying to leave their own mark on a song to compete with its “definitive” version.

The closest I can think of in the past 40 years would be “Yesterday,” though I’m holding out hope that at least one of Prince’s ballads will make it. :slight_smile:

Damn, where’d my first sentence go? That was supposed to start with:

When you go out to eat at one of those places that still has a jazz trio playing across from the fire exit, and you go up to the bass player and slip him $10 and ask him to play a song, and he says they’ll be happy to, but their keyboard player is a sub this weekend and he may get the bridge wrong, that’s a standard.

When he looks at you and says “Play what?” that’s not a standard. :slight_smile: